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Memory Monday-Brett Gets Kidnapped

Memory Monday-It’s a thing…

Back in the Full House days at Granny’s, her door was open to everyone. Given most of the adults were living there because of a divorce, arguments weren’t uncommon.

Perhaps one of the ugliest divorces at the time was between Debbie and her first husband, Eddie. After Debbie moved back into Granny’s house, Eddie, who was living in Florida, moved back to this area as well. He had limited visitations with my cousin Brett. Still, he tormented Debbie and often threatened to kidnap Brett.

One Saturday, Granny and I were outside under the shade tree when Eddie arrived for a visit. Brett was still in the house, and Granny told Eddie he could go inside. A few minutes later, Eddie ran out of the house carrying Brett. Debbie was close behind him, screaming for help. Eddie tried to get in his car, but changed directions. Debbie was still in the front yard screaming. Grandpa tried to run out the door, but fell on the porch.

Eddie ran toward the branch and jumped across it. I guess he thought he could run to the main road. The next thing I remember was my mom bolting out the front door. She jumped over Grandpa and passed Debbie. Granny and I followed Mom. Mom crossed the foot bridge as Eddie passed it. She jumped off the bridge and tackled Eddie. He dropped Brett as he fell and Granny and I grabbed Brett. He cried and was saying, “I just want to see my Daddy.”

Eddie and Mom made it back to their feet. Eddie grabbed Mom and was shaking her while he yelled at her. My dad was also visiting that day too. He stopped to help Grandpa up, but he made it to Mom’s side about the same time Eddie started to hit Mom. I don’t remember my dad, who was twice as big as Eddie, hitting Eddie or anything. I remember Dad shoving Eddie back toward his car and telling him to leave.

After Eddie left and everything calmed down, the grown-ups were talking about the day’s events. The question they pondered the most was why Eddie didn’t get in his car and drive away.

Granny finally said, “He couldn’t. I took his keys. He left the car running and the door open. I knew what he was going to try, so I took his keys. When we brought Brett back to the house, I sent him and Marsha inside and I put his keys back in the car then.”

That was Granny. Observant. Calm. Smart.

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Memory Monday-I’m a Murderer

Memory Monday-It’s a thing…

Before I turned 16, Mom and Granny allowed to drive the truck and car on the dirt road of our “holler” and I did so every chance I got. One summer Saturday, the family loaded into the truck and went to the grocery store. When we got back home, we stopped at Aunt Connie’s and unloaded her groceries first. Then, as usual, I jumped in the driver’s seat to drive the truck across the creek to Granny’s house. Grandpa had passed away years before, but Granny kept his truck and the camper top that went on the back. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I would say I was around 13-14 years old.

Granny and Jimmy, one of the neighborhood boys, decided to leave the tailgate down to sit on it for the ride to Granny’s. I pulled out of Aunt Connie’s driveway with no issues. There was a tree branch sticking out over the road on the other side of the creek. It was right in the path where I would normally drive out of the creek. Not wanting to scratch the truck, I tried to avoid the stick and somehow ended up pressing down on the accelerator. The truck shot halfway up the bank in front of me. On the back tailgate, Granny and Jimmy half tumbled, half jumped off the truck, but not before one of them hit the camper hatch with their head and shattered the glass.

The truck stopped and there was of a lot of yelling. Somehow I got the impression Granny was dead and I had killed her. I ran. I ran the rest of the way home and to the barn to hide. I was sobbing hysterically thinking I had done the most horrible thing I could do. Mom tracked me down once they got the truck of the bank and to the house to unload the groceries.

“Marsha, come on to the house.”

“No. I killed Granny.”

“Granny’s fine. Come on.”

“No she isn’t, I killed her!” I remember being so mad at Mom for not believing me, not being mad at me, and for lying.

“I’m telling you, she is fine. So are Jimmy and the truck.”

“No! I killed her.”

Mom left me sitting there. According to my mom, she went back to the house and told my Granny I was being a “little fool” and I thought I killed her. Finally, Granny came to the barn to get me. I really couldn’t argue that I killed her with her standing there so I went to the house with her.

The next week, we went for groceries as normal. I didn’t try to get in the driver’s seat once Connie’s things were unloaded. Granny looked at me and said, “Well, get up there. The truck won’t drive itself. The ice cream is melting.” That was Granny, logical to a fault and a lover of ice cream.

I drove us home without incident from there on out. I’m thankful Granny and Mom didn’t let me quit driving after my little accident.

Memory Monday-Never too Old

Memory Monday-Never too Old

Memory Monday-It’s a thing…

My mother often tells me I’ll never be too old for her to whip me. I’m sure this used to invoke fear in me at some point in my childhood, but after one rather uneventful day with her and Granny, that phrase only makes me laugh.

The day in question was probably a Saturday or Sunday in 1989. Granny, Mom, and I were having lunch and the three of us were all buzzing around the kitchen doing different things. I’m not sure what Mom kept saying to Granny, but Granny was getting irritated. I sat in my normal spot along the side of the table near the back door. Granny settled into her spot at the head of the table with her back to the hallway. Mom was still across the room, but would end up sitting across from me.

Mom said something else to Granny and Granny said, “One more word out you and I’m going to smack you.”

As Mom pulled out her chair and said something else to Granny. Granny stood up as Mom sat down and Granny’s hand snapped forward and popped Mom right across the cheek. Granny, without missing a beat, walked across the room to the kitchen sink.

Mom’s face was priceless. She sat down, shocked, with her mouth hanging open. I slid out of my chair and crawled up the hallway to my room. My sides hurt from laughing and I tears poured out of my eyes from laughing so hard. I couldn’t even pull myself to the bed. I was still on the floor trying to regain my composure when Mom walked in my room.

“She smacked me.” She said, a surprised look still on her face.

“I know! I saw it!” I howled.

“Well! I just don’t think this is funny.”

“You’re never too old, Mom!”

There is nothing in this world like seeing you mother’s words turned back on her. So now, her threat is an empty, hollow threat that only makes me laugh.

Memory Monday-Granny was Arrested

Memory Monday-It’s a thing…

During the Full House days at Granny’s, an epic feud broke out between us and one set of neighbors. The Dills had a trailer that sat near the end of the swinging bridge we used to cross the creek. The grandmother of that family lived in the house nearest the road (House #5 on my map). When it flooded, it was common for the water to be too high to drive our cars across the creek, but the walking path would be clear. When this happened, we would park our cars on the side of the road in front of their homes.

One Friday night, during a flood, we get a call from the Dill family saying our cars were on their property and had to be moved, at once. Specifically, Debbie’s car was the offending car. What some may not know is the state road owns, or claims, so many feet from the center of the road. Armed with a tape measure and flashlights, I went with Granny and Debbie across the creek to measure the distance from the middle of the road to see if Debbie’s car was on their property.

Granny and I stood in the road while Debbie measured from the center of the road to the far side of her car. Turned out, Debbie’s car was entirely on state property and several inches away from where their property line. Once she was finished measuring the placement of her car, Debbie walked up to the front door of the house to inform the Dills she was not on their property. That was that and we walked back home.

Saturday evening, two county police officers showed up with warrants to arrest Debbie and Granny for trespassing. Once the Dill family learned they couldn’t do anything about the cars, they called the police to complain about trespassing. The officers were ready to handcuff Debbie and Granny. I remember a lot of raised voices and arguing. I’m sure my mom and Aunt Sue were on the verge of being arrested themselves as they came to Granny’s defense.

“Just clam down.” Granny said, waving her arms. Everyone, including the officers, stopped talking. “I can’t go with you tonight.” Granny told one of the officers.

“Why not?” he asked.

“I have to go to church tomorrow. I’ll come over Monday.”

I’m sure there was a little more to the conversation, but the officers basically said that would be fine and left. Granny and Debbie ended up in court and the case was eventually thrown out. The feud with that family raged on for years. I have no idea why it started in the first place, but to this day most members of my family still hold a general dislike (mildly stated) for the Dills.

Memory Monday-Little Red Wagon

Memory Monday-It’s a thing…

Ah…the holidays are over and we are settling into winter. The chilly temperatures and short days keep most people inside. The hottest news story on the local news is the weather report. Overall, it doesn’t seem as if we get a lot of snow in this area anymore. Still, what little snow we get is enough to shut down schools and make the daily commute dangerous for most people.

During the winter months, kids get excited when they hear the most wonderful two words ever spoken: Snow Day. To parents, these are two of the most foul, obscene words ever uttered. It’s about perspective. Where I grew up, a Snow Days wasn’t always great. Being so far out in the country, heavy snows often caused power outages and the power company couldn’t get out to where we lived to do repairs until the roads cleared.

I remember one heavy snow when I was in high school. I don’t remember how many days I was out of school because of the weather, but it seemed like forever. Granny and I were the only two people living at the house by this time. The house was heated by gas heat, but the pump wasn’t the most reliable and we used kerosene heaters as back ups. A blanket hung over the doorway between the kitchen and the living room acted as a door to help keep the back half of the house warm. With the electricity out, we spent little time in the living room and it made sense to block it off from the rest of the house. Taking a bath meant heating water on the stove in large kettles to fill the tub and it was impossible to heat up enough water for a good, soaking bath. At night, we left the water running in the kitchen and bathroom faucets to keep the pipes from freezing and the drip of the water used to drive me crazy.

We passed the hours reading books, working jigsaw puzzles, or working in word puzzle books. We listened to the radio for short periods at a time, mostly for news updates, to preserve our batteries while the power was out. During the day, Mom tried to visit us as much as she could since she lived close enough to walk to our house.

Everyone thinks it’s great when the temperature rises and the snow starts to melt. Most of the time it is a good thing. However, the house I grew up in was prone to flooding. That year, as the temperature warmed, the rain started as well. We watched as the water in the branch beside the house and the water from the creek overflowed their banks and merged into one large body water effectively cutting us off from the road.

Granny watched the water most of the night and around noon the next day the water was covering over half our yard. The house sat atop a small slope which helped, but it was still the worst flooding I remember while I lived there. We could still get out the back door and we had a clear path through the garden and hayfield behind the house. There were two more houses behind ours and both were empty, one of which belonged to my Aunt Bessie before she passed away.

Granny said words I had never heard: “We’ve got to get what we can up off the floor and head to to Bessie’s.” Bessie’s house was farther away from the creek and the flood waters from the branch rarely posed as much of a threat to her house as it did ours.

Nobody lived in Bessie’s house meaning I had to get the kerosene heater up to the house somehow. The heater was too heavy and Bessie’s old house was too far for me to carry the heater alone and Granny couldn’t help. Granny finished a round of chemotherapy a few weeks earlier that left her weak. As I thought about how to get the heavy heater to the other house, I remembered my younger sister had a little red wagon we kept at Granny’s house. Granny and I got the heater out the back door, off the porch, and loaded onto the wagon. Of course the base of the heater was larger than the wagon so I had to hold it with one hand and pull the wagon with the other. Granny stayed at our house to move pictures and other small items to the bedrooms upstairs.

Normally, the walk between Granny’s and Bessie’s took less than five minutes. That day, walking in the rain, in sub-forty degree weather, while pulling a heavy heater on a kiddie wagon through a lumpy, bumpy garden and hayfield, it took close to a half hour. Once I got to Bessie’s house, I still had to lug the heater up the steps and into her house by myself.

Once I got back home, I went inside to help Granny finish putting things up and I see a couple boxes of food sitting on the table. Tears stung my eyes. I would need to haul those boxes up to the other house on the little red wagon as well. I was so focused on the heater, it didn’t occur to me we would need other supplies like food and water. Thankfully, Granny was smart enough to remember those things. I put the second load on the wagon and headed back to Bessie’s. The food trip was a little easier because the boxes weren’t as heavy. It was still cold and still drizzling rain.

By the time I made the round trip trek a second time, I was soaked from head to toe. I walked into my house and Granny was sitting at the kitchen table reading as if nothing was happening.

“Granny, are you ready? Is there anything else I need to take up there on the wagon?”

“No. It looks like the water is going down and the rain has stopped. I think we can stay here. You gotta go get our stuff, mice will eat the food and if the gas goes off, we’ll need that heater.”

Granny was not the type of woman you argued with and she was not the type you complained to about anything. If she said do something, you did it. Simple as that. I knew I had to go get everything I just took up to Bessie’s house. My school backpack sat in a kitchen chair and sparked an idea. I emptied the backpack to take with me so I could put some of the food in it. What wouldn’t fit in the bag, I arranged around the heater after I set it on the wagon. I made it back down the holler* to Granny’s in one trip with everything. That was the coldest, wettest, tiredest I ever remember being.

*Holler is local lingo for hollow.

Memory Monday-Gorilla

Memory Monday—It’s a thing.

My grandfather was a bit of a prankster. He used to imply or tell me I was some sort of animal (Hound Dog and Groundhog’s Day). I even asked him to get me a monkey if he couldn’t find me a cat. Now, I guess I should tell you about the gorilla that lived upstairs in our house.

Pre-1981, the house was a fairly small log house. There was a living room, a bedroom, and a kitchen on the ground floor and two bedrooms of unequal size upstairs over the living room. My grandfather slept upstairs in the smaller of the two rooms and my grandmother and I slept downstairs.

The house was old and popped and creaked like old houses are want to do. I grew up thinking the pops and creaks belong to some unseen thing that stayed upstairs. My grandfather didn’t want me to go upstairs to his room so one day when I asked about a mysterious thump I heard upstairs, he explained that a gorilla lived upstairs. He cautioned me to never go up there because the gorilla would be mad and eat me.

This may come as a shock to some of you, but did you know that as soon as you tell a kid NOT to do something, that is the very thing the kid does? Yep, true story. After being told not to go upstairs, that was quite simply the only place I wanted to go. I waited for what must have been weeks before I braved opening the stairway door and slipping up the brown steps.

I got to the top of the stairs that opened up into the larger bedroom that once belonged to my cousin before she graduated high school and moved away. I felt very confident and proud of myself for proving there was no gorilla living in my house. I tiptoed across the larger room toward my grandfather’s room. The two were separated by a curtain hanging over the doorway. I pushed it aside and stepped into my grandfather’s room. I looked around the room and there it was, the gorilla.

The gorilla was hunched down in the darkest corner of the room. Black fur glinted in what little sunlight fell through the single window in the room. His eyes were black like bottomless pits, shining directly at me. In that instant I knew I was about to be eaten alive by a gorilla. I did the only thing I could do…I ran.

I didn’t tell my mom or grandmother about my close call with the gorilla for weeks. Finally, my grandmother told me to go upstairs to get something and I fell to pieces. I told her about sneaking up the stairs and coming face to face with the little girl eating monster grandpa kept up there.

She took me by the hand and pulled me up the stairs. I wanted to protest the entire way, but once Granny said do something, you did it. I just knew it was going to be the end of us both. She walked straight into grandpa’s room and over to the dark gorilla corner where she picked up a black faux fur coat with shiny black buttons.

To this day, I still don’t like going upstairs in that house.

Memory Monday-Apples and Deer

Memory Monday…It’s a thing.

At one point, the house I grew up in was full.  Divorces and other people essentially abandoning their kid brought family and friends to my Grandmother’s doorstep.  From the doorstep, they came into the living room, we doubled up in bedrooms, and converted a small utility room into a bedroom.  Then they all got remarried or grew up and moved out.  Granny and I were the only two left in the house.  I was in high school and had to ride a school bus about an hour each direction.  I think I had to catch the bus by 630-645a so we could get to the school in time for kids to eat breakfast in the cafeteria so I had to be up by 6a to get ready.

Granny and I were night owls, preferring to sit up and watch TV or read until the late hours of the night.  I would try to go to bed by 11p, but it wasn’t uncommon for her to be up all hours of the night.  Her bed room was at the back of the house and she had a nice view of the apple trees that lined our back yard.  Deer would could out of the hills at night and eat the apples that fell to the ground.  I was never sure if she heard the deer or if she actually watched for them, but she would wake me at 2a or 3a in the morning to watch the deer with her.  I didn’t complain, I just went with it.  We’d watch them eat the apples from her bedroom window.  Sometimes, we were lucky enough to slip out the front door and stand in the side yard watching them.  We didn’t talk.  We didn’t need to talk in those moments.

My grandmother died midway through my senior year of high school.  It’s been over 20 years now and it’s rare that a day goes by that I don’t think about those mornings with her.  Like a kid, I would love to have just one more…one more morning with her.

My advice:  Cherish the small moments with your loved ones.  You never have as much time as you think you do with them.

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